Australia look to stop the treadmill of defeat
Match factsMarch 14-18, Mohali
Start time 0930 (0400 GMT)
Big PictureContinuous losing in professional sport brings the worst out of people. Especially in Test cricket where individuals can perform outstandingly and still lose, where a match goes on for five days and tours last months, where you are stuck with the same faces preparing for the same results.
It brought the worst out of India when they were in Australia. They kept on picking the same failing batsmen, kept on batting in the same order, waited for some higher power to authorise the firings, and hoped that past glory will miraculously pull them out of the hole.
If India sleepwalked, as if on sedatives, through the losses, Australia have been behaving as if on crack. The thing they have been wielding is not so much an axe as it is a chainsaw. Nathan Lyon experienced it after the first Test, losing out to a limited-overs spinner. Now four others are out for discipline issues that the team management says have been accumulating.
Australia have made it clear that failing to show intent, discipline and subordination in team meetings is a bigger sin than not scoring a run off spinners or under-bowling a fast bowler on fire and over-bowling him into dust when he is not or making poor selections or failing to reverse-swing the ball.
The first set of things is what they can control, the latter depends more on skill and the application of that skill, which is not always in their control. Even if Australia lose every match on the trip, and there is a strong likelihood they will, they perhaps want to know they tried everything in their control.
There's not much left in their control, though: they might have only 12 men left to choose from, Steven Smith and Brad Haddin could be playing in the top six, but it's fair to say they will rather be on the field than in front of a green backdrop with strings of VB and Cricket Australia logos in the press conference room.
Form guideIndia WWDLL (Last five matches, most recent first)
Watch out for...Phillip Hughes will be aware he is allowed to sit in this test only because some others have been asked to stand outside the class for the next period. Hughes has faced 39 balls from spinners this series, and has been out four times without scoring a run. That spin barrage is not likely to stop any time soon. It will be interesting to see how he counters it.
Michael Clarke has finally decided to move up in the order in an attempt to prevent fires as opposed to doing all the firefighting with fewer specialist batsmen for company. You can seen, though, why Clarke wanted to cling on to No. 5: he averages 64 and 51 at Nos. 5 and 6, and only 22 and 25 at 4 and 3. We are not sure yet where exactly he will bat, but he has made the decision for the good of the team.
This will be Ishant Sharma's 50th Test. He averages 38.52 with the ball. No specialist bowler who has played 50 Tests has ended with an average that bad. Looking at India's pace resources, Ishant still has time to correct this statistic. Mohali at least should provide him more help than the two earlier pitches.
Teams newsIndia are in that happy inconspicuous place that Australia inhabited when India toured there. MS Dhoni's picks have been working, Ravindra Jadeja has turned into a Test bowler at home, and you don't see the anxiety that should accompany the firing of Virender Sehwag. In fact they have gone ahead and said a day before the Test that Shikhar Dhawan will debut in Mohali, something almost unheard of in modern Indian cricket.
There had been a bit of an injury scare to Cheteshwar Pujara, who batted with what seemed like a troublesome knee in Hyderabad, and walked off gingerly during a training session two days before the match. He is likely to play, though. Harbhajan Singh could continue being chosen ahead of Pragyan Ojha, but you never know with India.
India (probable) 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 M Vijay, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Sachin Tendulkar, 5 Virat Kohli, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Harbhajan Singh/Pragyan Ojha, 10 Bhuvneshwar Kumar and 11 Ishant Sharma.
In this Test, some on-field action can't come soon enough for Australia. Can it? They have the task of picking a Test XI out of the debris that is left behind. It looks easier on paper because there aren't many alternatives left, but you can't imagine any captain envying Michael Clarke right now.
Matthew Wade is as good as ruled out as a wicketkeeper, but there is an outside chance he could play ahead of Hughes as a batsman. They could play both the specialist spinners, and leave Glenn Maxwell out.
Australia: (possible) 1 David Warner, 2 Ed Cowan, 3 Phillip Hughes/Matthew Wade, 4 Michael Clarke (capt), 5 Steven Smith, 6 Brad Haddin (wk), 7 Moises Henriques, 8 Glenn Maxwell/Xavier Doherty, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Peter Siddle, 11 Nathan Lyon
Pitch and conditionsMohali will be the closest Australia will get to decent bounce and carry in India, especially with India's current mood of spin domination. Don't bank on it too much, though. "There's not much grass to cut off and it was quite dry yesterday so it's probably even drier today," Clarke said. "I think the conditions are going to be very similar to what we've seen in the first two Test matches." Australia have lost both the Tests they have played in Mohali.
However, it won't be as hot as in the south. Day-time temperatures are likely to stay in the mid-20s, and cloudy spells and an odd thunderstorm is likely to make it even more pleasant.
Stats and trivia
- India have only ever led 3-0 in a Test series on two occasions, against England and Sri Lanka in the early 1990s. They have won three Tests in a series on three occasions.
- Australia last won a Test in India in October 2004 in Nagpur. Since then, they have lost seven, including the two in Mohali, and drawn two. Over the same period, India have lost six Tests, won one and drawn one in Australia.
Quotes"A lot of people talk about young players - he should be picked, he shouldn't be picked, is he good enough? The only way you find out if he's good enough is if he gets an opportunity."
"The confidence of the team is high but as our coach told us, we have to start afresh. We want to go with the same attitude and same energy on the field as we did before the start of the series." Shikhar Dhawan says India won't take anything for granted
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo